Mama Stands Up

Darkness.  I lay in the darkness feeling numb.  Am I awake?  Praying for that feeling a relief to wash over me like slipping into a steaming bath.  But that warmth does not arrive.  Instead panic flashes.  Hot and dry in my throat.  What am I going to say to my children?  I need to be brave.  But how can I dig for that courage when it’s not there?  It’s buried deep under fear, panic, shame and sheer disappointment that runs white hot through me.

For months, I have pushed this possibility to the side.  For nearly a year, I’ve laughed this off as an embarrassing joke.  But what I have really done is forced myself to believe in humanity.  Challenged my fearful mind to trust that good will win- it has to, right?  That the majority of humans care beyond their doorstep.  Feel a sense of duty to protect our so very fragile society and vote with their hearts.  The disappointment I feel is for the reality that what’s in my heart is not in the majority of the hearts across our country.  I struggle to reconcile the notion that I’m the minority in my values.

5:49am.  Cub walks in to my room and crawls into bed.  Warm, innocent hands wrap into my own.  Did Hillary win, Mom?  I hesitate.  Waiting.  Like I’m expecting something wise to come.  Instead, No, baby.  She didn’t is all that falls out.  He rolls over to face me.  Searching my eyes and my mouth, his breath whispering, heart pumping.  She didn’t win I say again.  This time a little louder, pushing my voice past the hardness in my throat, testing how the words feel in my mouth, how it sounds to hear myself say it.  Cubs eyes fall.  He knows that evil won today.

The piercing, jagged truth is, he knows what this means.  I openly shared my feelings for not supporting Donald Trump.  My children know all the reasons this man did not earn our vote.  I shared these reasons because I genuinely did not believe that others would be able to see past the truths, the facts, and support him.  Of course I knew some could but I had no idea so many would.  So now I feel duped.  So does my kid.  So now what.  What do we do?

Well for starters, I am not going to be silent.  I am not going to roll over and make the best of this.  I am going to Stand Up.  I am going to look for places where I can Stand Up.  And Standing Up now means something different.  I won’t be silenced by Facebook, like I realize I have been for so long.  Words on a screen that mean nothing.  No action.  Look, I shared an article!  Now that I’ve let everyone know what side of an issue I’m on, I can go back to posting pics of my kids, recipes or memes.  For fucking real?  You know whats different about activism now than during the 60’s?  You actually had to show up to Stand Up.  You couldn’t just post a pic of a Civil Rights March, hashtag it and call it a day.  You actually had to show up.

I hear people say about the election outcome, We did this.  Guess what?  I actually didn’t do this.  And I am sick of being the We.  The We are the people who voted for this man.  The We don’t hold the same values as what’s in my heart.  The We are the people who are just going to go about their business and ignore the fact that evil won.  That gender discrimination, racial ignorance, anti-Muslim and anti-immigration won.  I am not the We.  I am the Me.  And the Me feels like the only thing I can do right now is Stand Up.  I vow to seek out injustice.  And DO something about it.  No matter how small that is.  I will no longer smile apologetically at the woman holding a “WOMEN’S RIGHTS MATTER” sign outside Planned Parenthood.  I will hold a sign next to her.  Are you Muslim?  I’m in your corner.  Are you an immigrant?  A refugee?  Are you black?  Consider me your ally.  Are you gay?  I will hold your hand.  Are you a strong, powerful woman?  I’ve got your back, girl.  I will not look for fights but I will seek opportunities to show that I am not the We.

And I will do this in front of my kids.  I will encourage them to do the same.  To say nothing is not an option for me.  And as angry as I was at 5am, I feel that anger replaced with a sense of duty.  I have deactivated my Facebook account to push myself to use action as my platform, instead of a social media account.  I’ll dearly miss the pics of your adorable kiddos but this feels more important to me right now.  I need to challenge myself to act instead of post a status or share a comical clip from the Daily Show.  Now, I have a sense of how to move forward.  I may not be able to influence laws from my tiny town in a tiny state but I can let people know how I feel about them.  I am not the We.  I can show up.  And I will Stand Up.  And I hope you will too.  Because it’s the only way I know to get through this right now.

With all my heart, I wish you Peace, Mamas.

Mama Drops the F-bomb

Today has been one of those days.  One of those days.

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The day began pretty typically for a Saturday with the Hub leaving for work at 6:00am, kissing me gently on the forehead as I barely have the strength to move, both arms trapped under sleeping boys.  As he walks out, I lay, trying to remember when and how they ended up pinning me to the mattress.  I have no clue.  I move.  Eyelids snap open.  Coffee.  Heading into the kitchen, I am struck by the most debilitating pain in my foot.  Crumbling to the floor, clutching my foot with tears starting to sting my barely awakened eyes.  A Lego.  A mother-humping Lego.  And it’s still stuck in my foot.  Right in the sweet spot between the ball and the pad.  I can barely contain it but I am thinking it.  Really thinking it.  Fuck.  It’s not out loud.  But it’s more oozing from the pores in my forehead.  I am sweating obscenities.

I manage to recover.  With no help or concern from the little beasts gobbling granola bars and fruit cups from the couch, little eyes glued to glowing screen like they’re in some kind of trance.  I survey the house.  The living room is pretty bad.  The sink is piled with dishes.  I efficiently, almost smugly, loaded the dishwasher the night before last (yes, you read that right) only to find that we were out of detergent.  And then I forgot to get it yesterday.  So now, this morning, not only is the dishwasher full of dirty dishes, but all the dishes from yesterday are piled in the sink.  Sweet.

Looking over to the playroom, I am filled with anxiety and dread.  That has to be cleaned.  You see, we are in the beginning stages of selling our house and have people coming to look at it tomorrow.  Tomorrow.  And they are such a sweet young couple… The sight of that playroom may affect them so profoundly that they may never again be able to stomach the idea of bringing children into the world.  But more importantly, they probably wouldn’t buy our house.  I sit.  Staring- glaring in at the mass of plastic, knowing that I will have to find a spot for each and every piece of shit in there.

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Fuck.  Again, not out loud but in my soul, I am breathing this curse in deeply and spitting it out from far in the back of my throat.  Silently.  And with a smile.  Because that’s what we Mamas do, right?  We hold shit together.  For everyone.  With a smile.  Because if we can’t, everything falls apart.  Everything falls apart.  No pressure.

Mooch has a birthday party today and we have yet to choose the perfect gift so we are off to pick out something ridiculously pink, frilly and girly.  Just have to pick out clothes for everyone.  Walking into my bedroom, the fury of my looming task in the playroom returns in full force.  Standing in the doorway, looking down at the heaps of laundry I must also deal with.  But later.  I dig in, searching out shirts and pants and underwear, and socks.  God, I hate looking for socks.  Hunching over, trying desperately to find the match to a dinosaur sock, I am so engrossed in my quest that I don’t even hear the smallest child sneaking up and pouncing on my back, catching me off guard, sending me face first into an over-turned laundry basket.  Fuck.  This time, it’s mostly in my head but the Fffffff slips a little.  Hi Mama!  Got you!  And he runs off.  The quest is over.  Mooch will not be wearing matching socks today.  I walk out of the room, but not before I take one long look back…  Knowing I will have to tackle this later.

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Mooch is pissed about his mis-matched socks.  Zook won’t wear his coat.  Cub is bitching at me for something but I can’t even hear him over Zook’s angry wails.  We manage to make it into the car.  Zook continues with the sobs- now because he wants to take his seat belt off.  I stop to pick them up bagels.  Silence as they chow in the backseat.  The toy store is uneventful except leaving- which is always stressful.  Always.  And ends with me yelling that I am leaving as at least two kids run screaming, partially believing that I may actually be gone.  I am beat.  But we have a gift that looks like something a fairy barfed up so I think we are in good shape for this party.  Mooch steps in cream cheese.  And now it’s all over the car.  My wallet falls to the ground into a mud puddle.  Along with the card for the gift.  Cub stands, looking at my wallet, acting like a sponge, soaking up the murky water.  Pick it up, I am saying to him.  But he’s just standing there.  I’m not putting my hand in that… I vaguely hear him say as I am wiping cream cheese off virtually every surface with upholstery.  Scooping my water-logged wallet up, I glare at Cub.  I get in and just as I swing my arm down, I feel a bump.  Hear a splash.  Looking down, I see that someone has left a full bottle of milk on the center console.  Without the cap.

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Fuck.  This time it’s out loud.  Instant shame.  Did I just do that?  Was that out loud?  Did they hear that?  I desperately scan the rear view mirror.  Yup.  They totally heard that.  No one says anything.  Nothing.  Deep breaths.  I put the cap back on the milk. Put my seat belt on, after about ten deep breaths.  I pull out of the parking lot.  I know I should say something but I am just not quite sure what that should be so I just drive.  Finally, I just blurt out, I am sorry.  That was a really bad word.  Mama was really angry and frustrated but it’s still not okay for me to say bad words.  Quiet.  And then giggles.  Breathe Mama.

It was a day.  A bad day.  One of those days.  But now it’s over.  Now, they are up in their beds. They know their Mama isn’t perfect but they know she tries her hardest every day.  The playroom is clean.  The dishes are done.  And the laundry, well that’s still up there.  But tomorrow is another day.

Peace, Mamas.

Bye, Bye Booby

For real.  This, the eve of his third birthday, also marks one month since Zook last nursed.  A few months back, I posted about my little guy giving up his nightly boob.  Sad, but not really surprising.  He was two and a half…  So although we did not nurse before bed, he awoke craving his mama’s milk instantly as his eyes opened.  And it went on like this for quite a while.  I had no clue that it would go on this long.  But it did.

Zook is my last baby.  Our family of five is complete.  What is apparent to most parents after two children became a blaring reality after he was born: Children are a lot of work.  And making sure that they all survive the day is also a lot of work.  So I relished in our nursing relationship- the Journey as many call it- because I knew this was the last chance I would have to grow this bond with a child.  I never thought of myself as an extended breastfeeder- not that I had any judgments about people who breastfed past a year… or two… or three… I just did’t think it was for me.  And then I was that Mama.

He just never appeared to be a toddler or (gulp) a preschooler.  He just looked so much like my baby that I was blind to the progression of his increasing age.  With each passing month, I thought surely it would be any day.  I was sure that after his second birthday, he would give it up but just like so many other things, the books were wrong about this too.  After his second birthday, I began scrutinizing about each session.  I gave myself such a hard time. And it was stupid because I was the only one putting the pressure on to kick this.  My husband was more than supportive- half because he relied on me to “give him a boob” to get our insanely temperamental sweet child to shut the F up calm down in any public setting.   And the other half of the reason he was so supportive was because he saw how much it meant to our little guy.  Don’t you think he’s a little old? I would say.  According to who?  He’d answer.  But do you think he still really needs it?  I’d say.  Look how much he loves it.  If it still works for you, don’t take it away from him.  He’d say.  For real.  (Reminder: Hug this man.)  So I just decided to go with it.  

Slowly, he would miss a morning booby sesh.  Then he would miss a day.  And then two.  And then three…  And then.  It was gone.  Still, one month later, the sadness creeps into my throat.  But I am comforted by the idea that he weaned me as much as himself.  Had he cut me off, I would have been heart-broken.  (Yes, folks, this was about me too.)  So he weaned me.  Slowly, and on his terms.  This happened just the way it was supposed to.  It was true self-weaning.  It was hard and there were times I wanted to give up- just as much as there were times that I wanted to offer when he didn’t need it.  But I let him decide what he wanted- what he needed- and trusted he would find his way.  I trusted him to find our way.

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Now, I’ll admit that I boarder on control freak (who am I kidding, I am a total control freak but I can’t really admit that because it sounds horrible… but this is Real) and because of this, I have a hard time letting my kids decide what’s best for them.  Of course you have to wear a hat, it’s 30 degrees outside!  You need to fill out your reading journal!  Take two more bites of breakfast!  Finish your milk!  Now what if we treated them like… humans?  Humans who are capable of making decisions for themselves.  I know I am making a huge leap here but if letting a near-three year old decide when he’s done nursing has taught me anything, it’s that we don’t give our children far enough credit for knowing what they need and when they need it.  We make so many decisions for them.  And some of them are necessary but are they all…?  I am not so sure anymore.

For some of you reading this, you may be welcoming me to the room: you’ve already made a decision to raise your kids this way.  To some, the idea of letting your kids make autonomous choices may seem ridiculous.  To the latter group, try to entertain this idea.  I’m still totally forcing my kids to wear their seatbelts, brush their teeth and use their manners but if they choose not to wear a hat, maybe I will let them (and shove it in my purse to hand off when they start to cry that their ears are cold) or maybe I will allow them to leave the table without finishing breakfast… they will be hungry but they won’t die.  Maybe they would make a better choice the next morning.

I don’t pretend to know where to draw that line and I am in no way telling you how to raise your kiddos.  But what I am saying is that our children are crazy smart.  They know what they are doing more of the time than we acknowledge.  Consider this.  My three year old clung to my breast until he slowly decided he didn’t need it anymore.  And then he was done.  On his terms.  I let go of the control.  And it worked out really well.  Bye, bye Booby.  Hello Independence.

Peace, Mamas.

I am a Hoarder. No more.

I know we have lots of excuses.  Two moves in three years.  Tiny basement.  Three babies.  Who grew into three kids.  And insane grandparents who spend far too much on toys, etc.  But however it happened, we kinda turned into hoarders.  We aren’t collectors of antiques, we don’t have newspaper clippings or mass amounts of old photos.  We aren’t even sentimental.  We don’t have twenty-seven cats.  Our yard is clean, our home is pretty clutter-free most of the time.  But our basement looks like it could be the season premiere of Buried Alive.  It was bad.

I am sharing because my goal through this blog was to ensure that any Mama who read this would feel like there was another Mama out there who let her know she was not alone.  Not alone with the struggle of trying to be a good Mama everyday and still feeling like you fall a little short.  Not alone with the exhaustion, tantrums, and anxiety of getting out the door.  Not alone with the basement packed floor to ceiling with shit.  Shit that you shoulda got rid of a long time ago.  Shit that you were only going to store down there for a little while.  Shit that you’re never really going to use but that you aren’t quite ready to part with.  Shit that reminds you of holding your babies when they were babies- and couldn’t yell at you.  Shit that reminds you of your life before kids- you actually had friends who you could “hang out” out with- who you didn’t have to talk about feeding schedules or diapers.  Or poop.  People with whom you could spend hours of time, without even mentioning soccer schedules, bus routes or which books eight year olds are into.  And did I mention that you can have these conversations in increments of more than three minutes in the parking lot with a crying child on your shoulder and another weaving through the parking lot like it’s a suicide attempt.  Seriously, you had friends like this.  I digress.

So the shit piles up and you watch it.  The stacks grow before your eyes and yet, you let it happen because you know you’ll get rid of it just as soon as you have the time/energy/stamina/motivation to go through it all…  I watched it pile up for the last seven years.  This is embarrassing and if you can eat off the floor of your basement, this probably isn’t the post for you.  A friend recently told me that she thought my blog was brave… And I am feeling pretty brave (or a little tipsy) tonight.  Here’s my basement…  Before.

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Holy shit, right?  I know.  I went through every one of those f-ing boxes.  And some had mouse poop in them.  (See again with the poop conversations.)  Some of the cardboard boxes were a little mildewy…  I know who puts cardboard on the floor of a 145 year old basement?  But remember, it wasn’t going to b there for long…  This is my basement… Now.

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Impressive, right?  I know!  So where did it all go?  Ahh, you know where it all went… To the garage!

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Utterly ridiculous, right?  I know.  So we had a yard sale this weekend.  And a couple things happened.  1. I got rid of a lot of shit.  2. I made a fair amount of moo-lah.  And 3. I discovered that the vast majority of the people who attend yard sales are weirdos.  For real. Or maybe it was just my yard sale, I don’t know.  I talked to more nutty people in a 48 hour period than I have in a long time.  Remember, I am a social worker; I know a lot of fucked up people.  They flock to me, in fact.  So, here’s my garage… Now.

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Ahhhh… I can breathe.  And I didn’t need all that stuff to remember my babies as babies.  I still have them.  They act like babies every damn day.  I don’t need a box of shit in my basement with mouse poop to remind me of the life I had before I had those babies because I still have most of those friends and I have new friends.  Friends who hug me even though I have puke on my shirt, friends who listen to me complain about math games, shin guards and bedtime routines.  Friends who drop off a bottle of wine when my kid has his eighth go-around with the stomach bug (and these friends can purchase that wine legally now).  I don’t just like my life now, I kind of love it.  And now that my house is not being swallowed in shit, I can enjoy it even more.

Peace, Mamas.

Kindergarten Hell

We are in Kindergarten Hell.  My sweet, charming little Mooch left on the first day of school with a mere wave and what walked off that bus was a fib-telling, tantrum-throwing, rule-hating little demon, packed inside the shell that once was my son.  What the hell.  Where did my sweet, polite child go?  He went to Kindergarten.

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First there was the meanness to little Zook (whom I have no concern that he can hold his own) then there was the tantrum at soccer.  Soccer.  All was kosher until I whip around to seem my child (or what was once my child) stamping across the soccer field in the middle of the game sobbing and screaming.  The screams were barely decipherable (my hope was that they were completely indecipherable), the tears were flowing, arms swinging wildly in the air.  I hate soccer!  I hate my team!  I hate it!  I hate soccer- and my team! Sob.  Sob.  Sob.  After about 10 minutes of rolling, kicking (not at the soccer ball), drooling and snotting on the sideline, he finally was able to tell me what had offended him to this extent: He hadn’t yet scored a goal.  Really?!

There’s been meltdowns over the order of tooth brushing, nightly book choice, “wimpy” [insert item of clothing or footwear here], getting out of bed in the morning and into bed at night.  We have had hitting, pushing, pinching, throwing and fist-pushing (pushing your closed fist into someone’s stomach without the quick force of a punch- but with the same outcome). We have had arguing over meals and drinks and I’ve answered questions like Why can’t I have cookies for breakfast? Everyday.  (Which reminds me, I totally need to do a Things I Wish I Could Say Part 2…)

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My rationale is that he’s balking at his now-structured day, learning not only about numbers and letters but also about bullies and meanness.  Hearing new words and phrases, new jokes and insults- and trying them out at home.  On us.  There have been a couple times in the last two weeks that I have looked into his eyes, pleading with desperation… Please send my sweet innocent boy home to me!  Tonight, as I was tucking him into bed, he seemed sad.  What’s up Mooch?  How’s school?  Good. Is there anything you’d like to change about kindergarten? Silence and then…  Sometimes at Morning Meeting, the kids tell me to scooch over and I don’t have room to scooch.  Emma told me to scooch.  And I scooched.  And then Henry told me to scooch back.  But I had no where to scooch back.  Tears stung my eyes, my throat had that hard lump in the back.  As my Mooch looked down, he picked a chip of paint that had dried under his thumbnail… I didn’t have anywhere to scooch.  And then he leaned into me.

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So much is happening for him right now.  New friends, new rules, new words, new routines, new, new, new.  And he’s having a hard time catching up.  And I know he’ll get there but right now it’s really hard.  Hard to know what to ask and how to respond, when to talk and when to stay quiet, when to play and when to listen.  I can see that his behavior over the last two weeks has been a cry (okay, screaming tantrum) for direction, support and extra attention.  So that’s what this Mama needs to provide.  My dear Mooch, I will help you through this.  And you will learn how to be a kindergartner; I will learn what you need.  And we will conquer Kindergarten Hell.  Together.

Peace, Mamas.

Coming Up for Air

Holy shit that was fast.  In a nanosecond, summer passed us by.  It’s been a while.  My last post was about indulging myself in what was supposed to be my kids’ summer vacation.  Once I abandoned being a self-absorbed lamo, I threw myself into playing with my three little dudes.  We beached it a few times, went to the library a bunch and hung out in the yard, ran in the grass and fell into bed with dirty feet.  And we went to the Ben and Jerry’s Factory for a tour.  Which taught me a few nuggets of parenting genius- which of course, I intend to share here.

I hadn’t done many things with all three kiddos solo- other than work on my (semi) stay-at-home mom tan, while Pintersting as the kids dug holes at the beach- so I decided we needed a trip- somewhere to acquaint them with the culture of our state (Vermont), somewhere they could learn about local agriculture and industry, somewhere educational… Yup, we went to the Ben and Jerry’s Factory.  To learn about ice cream!  I was quite proud of myself as I drove to Waterbury (about a 35 minute commute from home), nearly smug as I pulled into the parking lot, pumping myself up.  See, Mama!  You can do this on your own!  Everyone is happy and ready for a relaxed day of ice cream and fun.  Ha.  Sure they are.  After parking, I gleefully walk to the trunk to get out the stroller- essential piece of equipment for a solo Mama of three at in ice cream factory…  Trunk’s empty.  What the fuck.  Reminder: send husband a hate text.  Now what.  Well, I guess Zook is going to have to walk.  Sure.  That will be simple.  A two-year-old is totally going to hold my hand and walk calmly and quietly as we tour an ice cream factory, right?  Riiiight.  Parenting Nugget #1: Always bring the fucking stroller.

Unloading everyone from the car, I pass out cheerful reminders like party favors.  Let’s try to be really good listeners today!  Mama needs your help to be calm!  We all need to work together and follow directions!  Hopefully they are not listening well enough to hear the panic bubbling in my throat…  This was going to be a long morning.  And why the hell do I not have the stroller?!  Okay Zook, hold Mama’s hand…  Nope.  Me run now!  Shit.

Up the 47 stairs from the parking lot.  Inside and into line to buy the tickets.  Thirty minutes until our tour begins… What are we going to do to kill some time.  Cub spots a spin art station.  The kids run over, to drop paint from a bottle onto a spinning sheet of paper.  Now I have to point out here that although the kids loved this, whoever in their right mind thought that a horde of children crowding around a spin art table was a good idea, clearly did not have children.  “Okay, just one drop of each color!”, the cheerful (annoyingly cheerful) 16 year old girl says to the boys as they rush the spinning paper.  Oh yeah, they are totally going to listen to you, honey.  Good one.  Zook takes a death grip on the bottle and squeezes like he’s trying to force out the last bit of ketchup.  Except the bottle is full and now there’s paint everywhere.  Everywhere.  Sweating, I pry the (now nearly empty) paint bottle from his paint-covered hands.  And now he’s screaming.  There’s paint everywhere.  Calm down, pull it together.  Clean up.  Who wants to pose in front of the giant ice cream truck?  Parenting Nugget #2: Don’t ever let a two year old do spin art.

Okay so spin art sucked up about 12 minutes- including clean up, which was really rather impressive.  Now what.  The boys spot a playground.  Perfect.  Just as they descend on the slides and climbing walls, I feel it.  The trickle.  A week early.  I have on mint green capris.  Fuck.  Boys!  We have to go back to the car for a minute.  Moans.  Whining.  All the “but we just got here”, “we want to stay” start a’flowing.  I forgot something and we need to go back to the car. Now.  Grumbling.  Of course Zook wants to walk.  All the way back to the car.  Oh dear god… This is bad.  In an effort to maintain my calm facade and struggling not to start screaming- or running- I try to formulate my plan of attack.  Do I dare leave them outside the stall in the bathroom?  Do I bring them in?  No.  There will be questions… Questions are bad.  The car.  I have to make it work in the car.  Good god, I have to make it work in the car!

I’ll spare you the details but my critical, curious (and a little annoying) 8 year old pretty much bitched me out the whole time while Zook literally devoured half a tube of chapstick and Mooch asked about 40,000 times how many more minutes until our tour- which by this time, I had completely forgotten about because so far, this fun trip to the ice cream factory has consisted of no stroller, spin art and my fucking period.  Where’s the bar.  Mama needs a drink.  Parenting Nugget #3: Don’t get your period at the ice cream factory.  (What?  TMI, you say?  Well, the name of this blog is Mama Gets Real.  And this is about as real as it gets.)

Long story long, we made it to the tour in the nick of time.  It was pretty boring.  But there was ice cream at the end and no one had a melt down.  As we drove out of the parking lot, Cub asked if we could do this every weekend, Mooch asked if we could have ice cream for dinner and Zook was passed out before we hit the interstate.  And my mint capris were totally fine.  Just when I think things are falling apart, they come together.  I forced myself to remain positive and my little ducklings followed suit.  Our summer wrapped up nicely.  My heart feels so full when I think about our last days of summer.  Completely elated that I had this time with them- which while stressful, warmed my soul.  Parenting Nugget #4: Enjoy these summer moments… Because the shit hits the fan when school starts again.

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Peace, Mamas!

Love is Free

I’m going out on a limb here but I think everyone should have an opinion on something.  If you don’t have an opinion you can’t really be relevant.  So here goes.  I had a conversation with someone today about parenting.  But I think it goes deeper than parenting.  Read on.

A man disclosed to me today that he was struggling terribly with his sixteen year old son.  The child is in an alternative school setting as he was removed from a traditional school setting due to violence and complete disregard for rules and authority.  It’s true that traditional school is not the right placement for all children however, I feel strongly that the school failed this child.  Nevertheless, the child has been exhibiting violent behaviors, cutting and most recently drinking.  The father stated that he came home to find his son sleeping and when he awoke him, he found that he was heavily intoxicated.  I asked how he had disciplined his son to which he responded I gave up on discipline a long time ago.  My wife doesn’t back me up and if we can’t be a united front, it’s never going to work so I just stay away from it.  Me, probing: Don’t you feel like he was testing you? Like he wanted to see where your hard line was?  If you didn’t draw the line at drinking, do you think he may push that line further the next time?  Maybe… maybe.  But he was so sick, I don’t think he’ll do it again for a while.  He already smokes.  And I know he’s gettin’ into pills too.  Ah, what can you do.  Kids.

I’m not sure I mentioned this before but I am a social worker.  At my past job, I assisted people experiencing homelessness with finding housing, obtaining medical, mental health and substance abuse treatment, creating resumes, repairing credit and provided support with transitioning from years in prison.  In my current position, I oversee a wellness program for seniors, people with disabilities and families who live in public housing.  I have seen poverty.  Motivated addicts, coached offenders, supported parents who have lost their children or are in the process of getting them back and made reports for them to be removed.  And what I can surmise from all this I have bared witness, what I can draw from these life events which may appear critical, is that they are chronic.  They are part of a chronic cycle that was learned, from one generation to the next.  Passed down like a quilt or a recipe, these cycles of abuse, poverty and drug use are to blame for the generations of dysfunctional behaviors which will follow.  These cycles are powerful.  This life we know is not fair to humans who are born into a field which is not level.  These cycles take such incredible strength to overcome that it can seem nearly impossible.

Sounds discouraging right?  That generations compounded by poverty will just continue over and over again.  Well here’s the kicker: Love is Free.  Love, patience and time do not cost a penny.  This man, sitting across from me today need do nothing more than to go home to his son and prove to him that he cares.  Tell him he loves him and that he’s not going to stand by and watch him give up on life.  The father has not been provided the skills to do this because his father didn’t give a shit either.  It’s a total cop out to say that but it’s true.  Love is free.

I am often struck by a quote from Gandhi: Be the change you wish to see in the world.  Well here’s the change I wish to see in the world: I want it to be better for my kids than it was for me.  I want the world they grow up in to not have nuclear bombs, ethnic cleansing and genocide.  I want them to know only of kindness to humans and respect for this earth we share with plants and animals alike.  I want my children to recognize when a fellow human needs help.  And help.  I want them to find partners they love and make babies and love them.  Really love them.  No small feat.  But I would dare to wager that many, many parents want the same thing for their children.  Even the gentleman I spoke with today.  He is a good person.  He works hard.  He’s lost hope that his son can see and appreciate the wonderful things in this world.  Just as soon as he remembers how to care about those things, he can inspire his child to see them to.

So Mamas (and Papas) be that change.  I’m not a person who judges.  And I certainly don’t claim to have things figured out- and I very seldom give advice without being asked but I am right here and now telling you- begging you- to see that good in the world and challenge your children to find it too.  Because my kids have to live in this world with your kids.   And my grandchildren have to live with your grandchildren.  Be that change.  And love your children.  Give them your time.  Grace them with your patience.  It will not lighten your wallet but it will make our world that much richer.

Peace, Mamas.

Sunday Reset: Vomit Talk

End of another week.  My posts haven’t been as frequent due to round 411 of this fucking stomach bug.  Seriously.  My middle dude seems to pick it up more than anyone else.  So he’s had it twice in the last week.  Just when I start to think we are getting through this…  Mama…?  It’s coming.  Racing up the stairs, clutching his body, turning to head back down the stairs and…  Yup.  All over me.  In my hair.  Dripping down the stairs.  Oh my God.  What the hell just happened?  While husband is showering Mooch, Mama has now stripped and is cleaning up some of the vilest vomit with diluted vinegar –because some idiot (ugh, me) decided it would be a good idea to break up with the Clorox.  Idiot.  While I am cursing myself out for that stupid decision, near-naked, I realize I have quite a night ahead of me.  My prediction was dead-on.

So I think we are in the clear and three days over again: Hello, Vomit!  Missed you so!  This time the stairs were safe however, the carpet and sheets took a hit.  Not in my hair- but in his and just on the shoulder of my shirt.  Only for the rest of the day, I can smell throw up.  You know what I’m talking about, right?  Where you know you catch a whiff and then you start sniffing like a lunatic trying to locate some shred of evidence to support the stench?  I’m not the only one who does this, right?  Right…?  But then you don’t smell it anymore.  Life goes on.  And all of a sudden, while playing the 506th game of Connect Four, I get the whiff again.  Pulling out my own shirt, I locate the source: a dime-sized chunk of vomit stuck to the inside of my sports bra (yes, I’m still wearing the same one from last night, no I have not showered and no you can’t  judge me).  What the fuck.   This is my life.

Now this may all seem very gross to you- even if you have kids.  But I bet you can relate.  And if you don’t have children, well, I should apologize because after reading that you may not ever want them.  But if you have stuck with me thus far, keep reading.

All of this throw up and lost sleep, carpet cleaner, laundry and scrubbing also brings some good stuff too.  Like watching them sleep.  (Okay, I’ll admit it, I am obsessed.)  In addition to swearing slow and painful torture on the culprit who wakes said child, I get the privilege to witness their peace- the steady rise and fall of their chest, those soft pink lips, the sweaty little palms holding tight to your own.  The gentle flicks of their eyelids.  Staring, searching their faces for hints of change or age; memorizing every contour of that plump chin and those fleshy, warm cheeks.  It’s bliss.  And then comes the upchuck of bile and the acidic remnants of last nights dinner.  Instant replay.

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It’s in these moments of bliss that I realize two things (1) They are fleeting and (2) I’m actually really patient and kind when helping my children through incredibly stressful, terrible situations (getting barfed on is about as bad as it gets…) yet in those times of normal stress, I kind of suck.  The annoyances of every day life seem to, well, annoy me the most.  Those ridiculous noises, the random yells, repetition of song lyrics, whining, not listening and sluggishness when it’s time to get out the door.  If I can deal with vomit in my hair (and in my fricken bra for half the day) why can’t I deal with the little shit?  Good question.

I need to be more patient.  I need to dig deep.  This week, I shall.  One week from tomorrow, I leave my children for four days.  Leaving on a jet plane to Denver for work.  I’m going to miss them terribly.  And I know they will miss me.  This week, before I go, I am making it count.  I am going to give them my ultimate patience.  And I’m sure you’ll hear about it.  How hard it is, how I may fail but how hard I am going to to try.  As I was reminded recently by a friend, I need to rediscover the No Yell Challenge.  It is really hard.  But it’s really important.  Join me.  It will be far less repulsive then vomit in your bra.

Peace, Mamas.

Lunch Love Notes

Do your children miss you?  I didn’t realize quite how much mine did until this week.

When I was little, my Mama often sent love notes along with my lunch.  The notes wouldn’t be long lists of the ways I pleased her or why she loved me better than my sisters (sorry, girls), the notes were more an indication that she thought and cared about me when I was not with her.  And even though my mom hasn’t been packing my lunch for over two decades, she still let’s me know she’s thinking of me.  Be it texts, emails or dropping a quick dime, she let’s me know I have been on her mind.  And it still feels good.

I write notes to my kids along with their lunches.  Usually quick things like, Hope you have a super day!  or I can’t wait to see you this afternoon!  But they always end with I love you, Mama.  Always.  Sometimes, I try to hide the note in with their lunch and make them search it out.  Sometimes, I toss it in at the last minute.  And sometimes, I forget.  Earlier this week, Mooch asked me if I would sign his Lunch Love Note from our entire family so he would be reminded of all of us during the day.  I asked Cub if he read the notes I sent.  He said yes and that his friends always tried to snatch the note from him to read it.  Timidly, I asked if it embarrassed him that I sent the notes…  (Say no, say no, say no…)  Yes, he said.  Do you want me to stop sending them with you?  No, he grinned.  [One of those Mama Moments]

Cub and I decided that I could try to write his Lunch Love Notes in code using a Lord of the Rings Lego decoder…  Well, I am truly a Mama of three boys.  So we are going to work on the decoder so I can tell him I Love You without anyone knowing.  But for now (until I learn to be a better Mama of three boys), we are going with this:

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The next morning, just as he had asked, I included a note with Mooch’s lunch which read: Dear Mooch, I hope you have a wonderful day and I can’t wait to hear about all the new things you learned and friends you played with!  We love you, Mama, Daddy, Cub and Zook.  XOXO.  I hid it inside his cloth sandwich bag and Velcroed it shut.  At dinner that night, I asked him if he had gotten the note.  He said he had found it and asked his teacher to read it to him.  Then I snuggled it when I had my nap time so I wouldn’t miss you as much.  [Mama Moment]  Sure enough, I found the Lunch Love Note crumpled up in his slipper.  Have I mentioned lately that I adore these children?  Maybe not enough.  Read on.

It’s reminding me that all too often, we Mamas spend hours per day critiquing our children.  Helping them get something right, giving out pointers, requests, advice.  We instruct, we make demands, we provide feedback.  These are all important things for sure but I wonder if the times per day we tell them we love them or miss them match these critiques.  Should it?  Now that I spend some time thinking about it, we do spend a great deal of energy on correcting our children and pointing out (kindly, of course) when they have made a mistake.  I am confident I tell them I love them at least… Twice… Shit.  It’s a simple thing.  It’s just that there are many other things that I need to say.  But what could be more important than I Love You…?  I think we all know the answer to that.

Now I am not talking about just saying it for the sake of saying it.  I love you I love you I love you.  See?  Meaningless.  But what about, The smile you had when you got off the bus today made my whole day better.  Or, I love your hugs.  Or better still, Can I have an extra hug so when I am missing you later today I remember how it feels to hold you?  These deeper, more meaningful expressions of love are just that: Deeper and more meaningful.  Which is exactly what I think kids need.  We need to quantify love for them- otherwise they may get lost in the vastness of it.  One of my favorite things to say to my kids is I love you more than all the leaves on all the trees in the whole entire world.  Then I point out a tree and ask him to try to count all the leaves.  I can’t- there’s too many, Mama.  Yup.  That’s right kiddo.  That’s right.

Peace, Mamas.

Sunday Reset: Mother’s Day Do-Over

One of the most wonderful parts of beginning this blog was finding out I am not the only totally dysfunctional Mama out there- there are so many more crazy women out in the world who are flailing through life, feeling like miserable failures and powerful gladiators at the same moment.  This was never more apparent to me than last week.  Mother’s Day not only a let-down (and not in the awkwardly-wet-booby-spot-on-your-shirt- way) for me- but many of you also had Mother’s Days that sucked!  That’s awesome!  Well, not really awesome but it made me feel like I wasn’t the only one who didn’t get breakfast in bed, only to open the silver dome over my perfectly cooked eggs (which we don’t even have, but I picture it with the dome) to find some exquisite piece of  sparkle.  Now if you were one of the ones who got the dome, good for you.  But instead of the dome, I awoke to fighting, yelling and three little pains in the ass… And a big one in the neck.  On the heels of my last post, we decided this weekend would be a Mother’s Day Do-Over.

I enjoyed tee-ball, Big Truck Day with the kiddos (with no fights or whining- shocker!), a fire in the yard, marshmallows- and plenty of chocolate- wine spritzers and a very special date with my man.  Sunday was filled with gardening, rolling in the grass with the three wonders who made me a Mama, a great workout and impromptu dinner with neighbors (which of course included more wine).  It was a wonderful Do-Over Weekend!

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I hope that all you Mamas who had a rough Mother’s Day got your Do-Over.  It felt beyond necessary to be appreciated and my ability to not have crazy expectations enabled me to feel the joy of playing with my children.  The comfort of spending time with my husband.  To feel the love of Mamahood.  That’s what Mother’s Day is about.  I didn’t need flowers (or the fricken silver dome) to have a meaningful day.  I just needed my children.  And the handsome guy who gave these wonderful little souls to me.

But a pedicure would have been nice too…

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Mama Gets Real… Toes are a wreck.

Peace, Mamas!